Friends, today the queen of queries and all around nice person, Elana Johnson, is here to share helpful tips about writing. But we aren't talking about query letters. We're chatting about novels in verse.
I downloaded Elana's YA verse novel, ELEVATED, and absolutely loved it. After I read the final page I asked Elana a few questions about writing in verse and indie publishing. She generously shares her experience with us.
Before we get to the interview, here's a summary of Elevated:
The last person seventeen-year-old Eleanor Livingston wants to see on the elevator—let alone get stuck with—is her ex-boyfriend Travis, the guy she's been avoiding for five months.
Plagued with the belief that when she speaks the truth, bad things happen, Elly hasn’t told Trav anything. Not why she broke up with him and cut off all contact. Not what happened the day her father returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. And certainly not that she misses him and still thinks about him everyday.
But with nowhere to hide and Travis so close it hurts, Elly’s worried she won’t be able to contain her secrets for long. She’s terrified of finally revealing the truth, because she can’t bear to watch a tragedy befall the boy she still loves.
1. What made you decide to write ELEVATED in verse?
I had started writing it in regular prose. I had over 100 pages! But something with the story wasn’t right. For one thing, it wasn’t long enough. I couldn’t figure out the ending. And then I started reading verse novels, and I thought, “I wonder if I can try writing a verse novel.”
The form worked really well for the kind of novel it is, and I just knew: the reason it didn’t work the first time was because I was writing it wrong.
No, I had never written in verse before. I did a little research online about free verse, and form, and things like that. Then I just dove into it, writing by “feel,” basically. Reading out loud also helped me get the poetic rhythms I was going for.
How much you can say with hardly any words. I am working on another verse novel right now, and I’m still surprised at how much I don’t have to say to get the same story across.
ELEVATED went out to New York editors in the spring of 2013. It was received pretty well, getting a lot of enthusiastic responses. A few editors passed it to their higher-ups, and acquisitions meetings were held. But in the end, no one bought it. There were varied reasons, but it came down to the verse market being “soft.” They had other verse novels they’d already purchased, blah blah blah.
Do it! Do it now! The only thing you’ll gain is an increased appreciation for the written word, and maybe you’ll stretch and grow as an author in ways you don’t expect. So do it!
Do it! Do it now! Haha. But I have loved my self-publishing journey. I loved doing the cover, formatting the interior, all of it. I still hope there’s a spot for my books in the traditional market, but for those titles that I am passionate about that don’t get placed there, I will be self-publishing them.
Friends, I found this information totally fascinating. I love verse novels, but I've been too chicken to try it. Now maybe I will!
Have you ever written in verse? Do you read verse novels? Would you object to indie publishing stories that haven't found a publishing home?
Elana Johnson’s work, including Possession, Surrender, Abandon, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), is available now everywhere books are sold. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for free download, as well as a Possession short story, Resist. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers